Silicon Valley’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week — OK, month

From Facebook’s advertising and fake-news issues to Google’s pay practices and antitrust woes, Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies are feeling the heat lately.

The left, the right and those in between are slamming the tech giants, leading to headlines such as “Conservatives, liberals unite against Silicon Valley” and “There’s Blood in the Water in Silicon Valley.”

Take the world’s largest social network.

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Facebook last week admitted that it found that fake accounts linked to Russians had spent about $100,000 buying ads on its platform before the U.S. presidential election last year. Also, a now-defunct anti-immigrant Facebook page tied to Russians organized real-life anti-immigrant rallies in Idaho.

Now, as Facebook clams up — but says it is cooperating with investigations into the Trump administration’s ties with Russia, including the one being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller — some people are calling on the company to tell the public more about the Russian disinformation campaign.

Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center and a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week.

“[B]y hosting these secretly-sponsored Russian political ads, Facebook appears to have been used as an accomplice in a foreign government’s effort to undermine democratic self-governance in the United States,” Potter wrote, according to Yahoo News. “Therefore, we ask you, as the head of a company that has used its platform to promote democratic engagement, to be transparent about how foreign actors used that same platform to undermine our democracy.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, who’s on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said this week during an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he thinks Facebook’s revelations about the Russian ads are “just the tip of the iceberg” and that Facebook needs to do more to find out what happened. He and Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, have told reporters they are discussing a possible public hearing for Facebook representatives — maybe some from Twitter, too, which was plagued with pro-Trump bots — about the issue.

It didn’t help matters when ProPublica reported this week that Facebook’s self-serve ad platform was allowing advertisements that targeted groups such as “Jew haters.”

New: Now there are reports that Twitter allows ad buys that target users who like the N-word, and that Google allows ad buys that target people searching for racist terms. (End new)

Not surprisingly, Facebook is getting slammed on social media. Here’s a tweet from Laura Olin, a digital strategist who has worked with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The tweet provides a perfect segue to Google and its woes.

The internet giant, which already is the target of a U.S. government lawsuit accusing it of paying women less than men, was sued this week by former female employees who allege the same thing, and add that the Mountain View-based company has a “sexist culture.” Google has resisted giving the Labor Department all the data the agency is seeking, such as detailed employee information. A judge recently agreed with Google, limiting the amount of information the company must turn over.

Also, Google faces a possible fine if found guilty of a charge leveled by Yelp this week. Yelp, a longtime thorn in Google’s side, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing the internet giant of violating terms of a 2012 settlement in which it agreed not to “scrape” other companies’ content for use in its own search results. Yelp said it found its photos for local business listings in Google search results.

“Antitrust is back, baby,” Yelp’s chief policy officer, Luther Lowe, told BuzzFeed this week. (By the way, Google also appealed this week a record $2.9 billion antitrust fine by the EU.)

Add all that trouble to the flak Google is getting related to think tank New America Foundation’s recent ousting of a critic who has been critical of Google and tech monopolies, and you have people such as former White House adviser Steve Bannon calling for regulating companies such as Google and Facebook as utilities.

Meanwhile, Clinton — the Democratic presidential candidate who lost the 2016 election — also appeared on Maddow’s MSNBC show this week.

Facebook has “just begun to own up” about Russian interference in the election, Clinton said Thursday. “They have a long way to go before they get where they need to be.” Clinton also said other tech companies should disclose whether their platforms were exploited by the Russians.

The harsh spotlight on tech companies comes as they are losing clout in Washington. For one thing, they aren’t  young up-and-comers anymore. And of course, they are dealing with a presidential administration whose views they often disagree with: They have spoken up against Trump’s travel ban against some Muslim companies; Trump pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord; Trump going after an Obama-era immigration policy that could result in deportations of nearly 800,000 people; and more.

 

Photo: Google sign, left (AP) and Facebook sign, right (AFP/Getty Images)

 

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